Thailand Budget Travel Guide

Travel tips, top places to visit, and how to go backpacking in Thailand

Once just a haven for intrepid backpackers, nowadays Thailand is one of the most-visited tourist destinations in the world. Different parts of Thailand cater to different crowds—from wide-eyed adventurers on a big trip to throngs of package tourists on a lazy holiday. That means to get the experience you’re looking for, you have to know where to go!

Yep… there’s the island of Koh Phi Phi, the Full Moon Party, or Bangkok’s tourist street of Khao San; these places get mentioned every time. They can be fun, even though they’re a little tacky and overhyped. But there’s much more to Thailand, and in this guide I will try to highlight some other places (and a few to avoid), as well as give you some general Thailand travel tips.

If you’re a grizzled explorer, then you might wince at some of the tourist crowds in Thailand. But this popularity does mean that travelling there is super easy—even if you have little travel experience. Getting from point A to point B usually can’t be more straightforward: you can easily arrange tours or transportation at your hotel or hostel, or at any number of small local travel agents. Accommodation is everywhere, many people speak at least a bit of English, and yes, safety levels are high. Thailand may be exciting and exotic, but you probably won’t find it too difficult to navigate.

By the way, if you have never travelled solo but want to give it a try, Thailand will teach you. It’s probably the best solo travel destination I know of. Stay in hostels or guesthouses (instead of hotels) and you are guaranteed to meet lots of people.

Railay Beach in Thailand

Railay Beach, Krabi

Ultimately, Thailand is perhaps a rite of passage. If you’ve already lived with goat herders in Kazakhstan or battled frostbite on Mt Everest, then maybe it’s not quite for you. But if you’re simply looking for something fun, different, and adventurous, then it’s the perfect country to visit. So get ready for a carefree, foodalicious, touristy-but-amazing, sweet spicy stir fry of tropical travel goodness…

Chiang Mai

Downtown Chiang Mai

Why you should visit Thailand

  1. Thai culture and street life. From golden Buddhist temples to buzzing markets, you will feel like you are in a different world.
  2. A haven for relaxation. Escape the big city bustle on the islands, or go to northern Thailand and live among the rice fields and bamboo huts.
  3. Great party scene. Bangkok, Phi Phi Island and Koh Phangan are renowned (notorious?) for wild partying. For a more laid-back and social vibe, hit up the fun bar scenes in Chiang Mai or Pai, or find your favorite beach bar on the islands of Koh Tao or Koh Lanta.
  4. Excellent beaches. I think Malaysia and The Philippines have especially stunning beaches, but Thailand is not too far behind.
  5. Delicious food. Thought you knew Thai food from your local Thai takeaway? Think again, because nothing compares to the real deal! Just getting a whiff of that fresh lemongrass or sweet basil will surely make you salivate…

Orientation

Thailand backpacking travel map

This rough map shows just a few of the major points of interest. Looking at it from a bird’s eye view, you can see several clusters of popular destinations in Thailand.

While you can create any sort of route you want, many travellers do hit up the north around Chiang Mai first (which has more cultural sightseeing, temples, hiking, etc.) before heading to the south. It just makes sense to keep those beach hammocks for last…

Northern Thailand

This region is more mountainous, has cooler temperatures, and is generally more relaxed. Its main city Chiang Mai has super low prices and a pleasant atmosphere, making it a great base from which to explore. With its hazy mountains and lush valleys, the region is popular for jungle trekking and for visiting indigenous hill tribes. The small town of Pai is a fun backpacker hangout, though it’s getting busier every year. Nomadic Matt recently posted an honest take on Pai, noting that it’s the landscapes around Pai and not just the town itself that makes this place so worthwhile.

Northwest of Chiang Mai is the Mae Hong Son province, Thailand’s least populous region. For a great road trip, you can rent scooters and ride the Mae Hong Son loop through these tranquil backwaters of Thailand, starting and ending in Chiang Mai or Pai. The small town of Soppong on this road is an amazing base for hiking and caving adventures.

Chiang Rai is another city well worth visiting in this region.

One of several nice waterfalls around Pai in northern Thailand

Central Thailand

Central Thailand is of course home to the capital Bangkok. Also of particular note are the archaeological sites of Ayutthaya and Sukhothai, both large areas filled with the crumbled remains of ancient Buddhist temples. About 120km from Bangkok is the small riverside city of Kanchanaburi, made famous by the movie Bridge over the River Kwai. It’s got a small traveller scene and is worth checking out.

Southern Thailand

The south of Thailand is all about the beaches and islands. It can be roughly thought of as having two parts.

The west coast along the Andaman Sea has some of the most developed resorts in Thailand, with Phuket being the most commercial area. Krabi province is famous for its coastline with dramatic karst limestone cliffs. It’s also known for Khao Sok National Park, arguably the easiest place to go jungle trekking, with the opportunity to sleep in a jungle lodge or even in a stilt house on a jungle lake. Off Krabi’s coast you’ll find Phi Phi Island, which is a beautiful island, though its high prices and 24/7 party culture are not to everyone’s liking. Neighboring Koh Lanta is equally developed but cheaper and more laid-back, while smaller islands such as Koh Lipe and Koh Kradan remain rustic and least developed.

On the east coast. you’ll find another smattering of islands. Koh Samui has its own airport and is home mainly to mid-range and upmarket holiday resorts. Koh Phangang, in turn, is known for its infamous monthly Full Moon Party, but is also a beautiful island waiting to be explored. Koh Tao is one of the cheapest and best places in the world to learn scuba diving, but is equally a great island just to hang out. Of the three east coast islands, I think it has the most charm.

Hostel recommendations

Travel is as much about you’re staying as where you’re going. Fortunately, Thailand has some awesome places to stay even if you’re on a budget.

browse thailand hostels »
Suneta Hostel Khaosan Bangkok Modern yet cozy hostel, away from busy Khaosan Road but close enough to walk there. Lovely common room with several pet guinea pigs.
Yard Hostel Bangkok In a less touristy part of Bangkok with wonderful courtyard garden. Read about my stay at Yard Hostel.
Green Tulip House Chiang Mai Colorful Chiang Mai hostel with a great atmosphere and rooftop lounge.
Spicy Pai Pai Just slightly out of town, but loved staying here among the rice fields. Social backpacker atmosphere.
Chill Out House Koh Lanta Hostel built entirely from driftwood with friendly communal atmosphere. Near the beach & very hippie.
Shiralea Backpackers Resort Koh Phangang Modern hostel with swimming pool, dorms and privates.
Baan Rub Aroon Chiang Rai Quiet mansion hostel away from the city hustle and bustle.
Goodtime Beach Hostel Koh Tao The highest-rated hostel on Koh Tao, on the main beach.

 

Budget hotels & bungalows

Not into hostels but don’t want to spend too much? If you look around a bit, you can find great guesthouses and bungalows for under $35/night. (Prices do depend on season.) Some specific examples below.

search on agoda »
Guesthouse DD Hut Koh Tao Mini-resort with modern bungalows right on Sairee Beach, with private balconies and sea views. $33/n
The Earth House Koh Tao Thai-style bamboo bungalows among the palm trees with cozy beer garden. $12/n.
Railay Viewpoint Resort Railay Beach (Krabi) Rooms available around $35/n near one of south Thailand’s most popular beaches.
High Life Bungalow Koh Phangang Mini-resort on top of a cliff overlooking the beach with hammocks, swimming pool & sea views. Starting at $24/n.
Rainforest Boutique Hotel Chiang Mai Chiang Mai has possibly the largest offering of budget to mid-range accommodation. This is one great example but there are hundreds more.
Khao Sok Palm Garden Resort Khao Sok National Park There’s a lot of affordable jungle hut style accommodation in beautiful Khao Sok National Park. Another example is Monkey Mansion.

For great hotel deals in Thailand I recommend searching on Booking.com or, better yet, their sister company Agoda (which is specialised in Asia). You’ll find hotels and guesthouses there which you won’t find anywhere else.

Places to visit in Thailand

Everyone will have their own opinions on where to go in Thailand, but I think these are just some of the best places to visit and top things to do:

Explore Bangkok’s Chinatown

For a great taste of the vibrant hustle-and-bustle of Bangkok, go to the Chinatown district and get lost in its maze of markets and narrow alleys. You’ll see fishmongers chopping fish, welders fixing equipment, and strange foodstuffs for sale—all amid a sea of Thai and Chinese neon signage.

See less-touristy Bangkok

On a first visit, you will probably be drawn to Khao San Road, Bangkok’s former hippie backpacker district which is now slowly gentrifying. It’s a fun and wild area where you can browse souvenir shops, eat some fried insects, maybe buy a fake ID, or party into the late hours.

But there is, of course, more to Bangkok. Recently I stayed in more laid-back Ari, a neighorhood with trendy cafes and bars popular with locals and expats. This company does amazing bicycle tours taking you into areas few others go, while sites like WithLocals let you find local tour guides who can help you unlock the ‘hidden Bangkok’.

Go caving, kayaking, or hiking in Soppong

This remote town in northern Thailand (also known as Pang Mapha) is set amid a veritable playground of caves, rivers, and jungle trails. I loved going on a caving tour here; I found myself crawling through the narrowest crevices to reach secret waterfalls deep underground. The people at Cave Lodge are the local experts. Tham Lod Cave is a more accessible and walkable cave, where you can see a spectacular swarm of thousands of swifts at its entrance at dusk. You can also visit Tham Lod by way of some organised day tours from Pai.

Lush forests and knobbly hills around Soppong

Lush forests and knobbly hills around Soppong

Rent a motorbike and explore

The countryside is best explored using your own transportation. Small motorbikes are easily rented, even without a driving license. In northern Thailand, the town of Pai and the city of Chiang Rai have great surrounding landscapes and waterfalls easily reached by scooter.

Valley southeast of Pai

Visit Buddhist temples

The Grand Palace and Wat Prakeaw in Bangkok are wonderful with their golden gleaming Buddha statues, though can get incredibly rammed with tourists. It’s best to go in the early morning. Doi Suthep on the hills near Chiang Mai isn’t quite as crowded, nor are the temple ruins of Sukhothai in Central Thailand (as it’s a large area).

Grand Palace in Bangkok

Learn to cook Thai food

You can find cooking courses in many places, though I did one on a farm outside of Chiang Mai. Try to find a cooking course that includes a trip to a local market, as you’ll be introduced to all kinds of fascinating ingredients.

See a Thai kickboxing fight

This is no WWE or Luche Libre wrestling: you will surely see some dizzying kicks and punches being dealt. It’s fun to watch the matches but equally fun to watch the crowds, as they get really into it. You can find Muay Thai fights in lots of places around the country.

img_5900__large.jpg

Go rock climbing in Railay

The karst cliffs around Railay have long been popular with climbers. While they are mostly for experienced climbers, as a complete newbie you can also take courses here. Railay’s spectacular cliffs also make for a great backdrop to its wonderful relaxing beaches. Railay is slowly getting more expensive, though some backpackers seek refuge on neighboring Ton Sai beach where low-cost accommodation is easier to find.

Go island hopping on the west coast

The west coast has the biggest variety of islands, making it the best place to go island hopping. Koh Phi Phi is the most famous island, but there are many others. Koh Lanta is a big and pleasantly developed island just next door, with mid-range resorts along Khlong Khong beach and a fun backpacker enclave along Long Beach.

For more of a Robinson Crusoe feeling you’ve got islands like Ko Hai, Ko Yao Yai or Ko Raya. You’ll likely need to pay at least 800 to 1000 Baht a night for a bungalow on any of these islands, but you’ll have a quiet island (almost) to yourself. For more island tips, consult some of the links at the bottom of this post.

Get scuba certified (at ocean-bottom prices)

Thailand is the perfect country to learn how to SCUBA dive. Koh Tao is the most popular place to do so, with many dozens of internationally accredited dive schools. It takes just 3 days of training to become a certified Open Water diver. Read This: 6 Tips For Learning To Scuba Dive On Koh Tao

Ko Tao: an amazing place to learn Scuba diving, or just to hang out and relax. (photo credit: victoriapeckham cc)

Experience Thailand’s unique festivals

Songkran (13-15 April) is the water festival during which everyone fights everyone with water pistols and water balloons. Foreigners are a favorite target so be sure to come well-armed! On Yi Peng festival (on different dates each year in November) thousands of lanterns are released into the night sky in Chiang Mai.

street food in Thailand

Don’t miss the great street food in Thailand…

Practical information

AccommodationTravel GuidesBefore You Go

Hostels: dorm beds and basic rooms are easy to find in Thailand. Some backpackers just show up to places and stay somewhere random, but it’s a better idea to book online on Hostelworld to ensure a bed in a high-rated place.

browse hostels

Hotels & bungalows: rooms are great value in Thailand; for example, you can find nice bungalows on the islands for as little as $30 a night. The best search engine is Agoda, which specialises in the Asia region and has some of the best deals.

browse hotels

thailand_travel_guide_-_16th_edition_largeAvailable in paperback or ebook from Lonely Planet. Individual chapters available digitally.

view guide

book_thumbnailMy general guide for travelling anywhere. Get this if you’re new to backpacking.

view guide

Getting Around

Bus travel is cheap and convenient, and can be easily booked from hostels or agencies. Air travel is very cheap as well and AirAsia is the main budget airline in the region. AirAsia also offers convenient island transfer packages that include a flight from Bangkok and connecting ferries to some of the popular island destinations. Trains can be a good option sometimes as well: for instance, it’s easy to get from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by overnight train, which have reasonably comfortable sleeping bunks. For local transport, use taxis or tuk-tuks.

Don’t worry too much about travel logistics. Thailand sees lots of tourists so there are always plenty of options for getting to where you need to be. Your place of accommodation can usually help with bookings. You’ll also typically find lots of mom ‘n pop agencies everywhere letting you easily book tours or tickets.

Language

While English is not so commonly spoken by Thai people, language issues are still fairly minimal. Most signs will also be in English, and anyone working in the tourism or service industry will pretty much be able to understand what you want to buy/order/etc. so long as you speak slowly. Many travel related companies and hostels also have foreign staff who speak English or other languages.

Safety

Thailand is generally quite safe. Crime does obviously occur (just as in any country), so keep your belongings secure and always apply common sense.

While Thailand is relatively worry-free, scams targeting tourists can be a problem. Be firm with taxi drivers or they may try to rip you off. Also, make sure you take some photos of any bicycle, bike, water scooter or anything else you rent prior to any use, as a popular scam is to claim you have caused damage and need to pay compensation.

Cost of travel

You can travel in Thailand on a backpacking budget of about $30 USD a day (which is €27 or £20). This assumes you stay in either hostels or basic guesthouse rooms and avoid eating only at tourist restaurants (eat at local eateries or street stalls instead).

The cheapest parts of Thailand are the center and the north. In Chiang Mai, for example, you can still find dorm beds starting at $4, while the cheapest private room might be about $7 here. If you’re on a shoestring budget, you could potentially survive on $20/day in central or northern Thailand.

Things are more expensive in the south however, especially along the popular coasts and islands. Prices on Phi Phi Island, for instance, have drifted towards the mid-range, with dorm beds costing around $20 and a basic private room around $40 there. Newer purpose-built hostels in Bangkok charge around $15 for a bed per night—still cheap by Western standards but somewhat expensive for Southeast Asia.

If you are more of a ‘flashpacker‘ and often go for mid-range accommodation, or if you spend most of your time in the more expensive south, then your daily spend per person is likely to be closer to $50/day.

You can find a lot more cost of travel details, including charts, in my Southeast Asia cost of travel overview with up-to-date prices for 2017.

Are you insured?

Get travel insurance and you’ll be covered you for medical expenses, theft, personal liability, cancellation, and more. I recommend World Nomads, which offer flexible insurance for independent travellers with 24-hour worldwide assistance.

Get a quote at world nomads »

When to visit / rainy seasons

Thailand can be enjoyed year-round. Most people will avoid the rainiest months of the year, but even in the off-season, Thailand can be well worth visiting.

September and October are the rainiest in the whole country, and monsoon rains occur quite frequently during this time. The rainy months run a little longer in the south of Thailand, though this is different depending on whether you’re on the west or east coast.

On the west coast (such as in Krabi, Koh Phi Phi or Koh Lanta), rains start becoming more frequent around May and lasts roughly until October. It’s low season on the west coast during this time.

On the east coast (e.g. Koh Samui, Koh Tao), the rainy season runs from September and lasts a little longer, until December.

That said, we are talking about general climate patterns here.”Rainy season” means the average precipitation is quite a bit higher during this period, but it doesn’t mean it literally rains all the time.

The weather can still be entirely acceptable in the shoulder or even offseason. For example, I spent extensive time on the west coast in May and it was fine—barely a drop of rain, and just wonderful sunshine throughout. I’ve been on the east coast in December and it was great. On another trip I was in the north for the whole of October, smack in the middle of the rainy season, but had only a few rainy days. The rice fields were lush and green.

If you have just a week to spend in Thailand and need it to be ‘perfect’, you’ll probably want to target the main tourist season (roughly December to February). But if you’re travelling longer you can worry about the season a bit less, as a rainy day or two will probably have less of a dramatic impact on your travel plans. One of the nice things about tropical showers is that while they’re intense they are also often short-lived, and things dry up pretty quickly. Travelling outside of high season means fewer crowds and often lower prices, so there are really just different pros and cons to every time of year.

A final point about the weather: if you’re about to depart for Thailand and your weather app shows thunderclouds for the whole week, don’t panic just yet! In hot climates like these it’s common to have some thunder in the evenings, but good weather during the day—however, weather sites will then just use the thunderclouds icon for that entire day, which can look pretty alarming on a weekly forecast.

Lowlights

In closing, these are a few places that might be less compelling to the independent traveller (if you ask me)…

  • Patong (and much of Phuket). Overdeveloped, overpriced and, well… full of idiots. Within minutes after arriving I saw a drunk shirtless man stumble into a McDonald’s repeatedly yelling “GIVE ME A FUCKING BURGER!”. This basically set the tone for Patong, and I didn’t feel much at home here.
  • Koh Samui – a beautiful island, though most people fly in here directly and don’t leave their upmarket resorts, making the island a little uninteresting if you’re not on a package holiday. Go to nearby Koh Tao for a vibrant/developed but still pleasant island.
  • Pattaya – yarrrr, here be sex tourists. Other than that, it’s also your typical seaside resort filled with large hotels rather than smaller-scale hostels or guesthouses.

Related Posts

Around the web

General Thailand guides & activities
Thai islands

More info on Thailand: check out the WikiVoyage page for some more destination info. Looking for a more comprehensive guide? Then grab a copy of the Lonely Planet guide to Thailand, available on paperback or as ebook.

59 comments

  1. Comment by Eric

    Eric Reply March 26, 2017 at 10:42 pm

    Marek- thanks so much for this guide. Visiting my brother who lives in Beijing and we’re flying down to Thailand for 10 days. Not a ton of time obviously, but we’re adventurers and want to fit in what we can. Given the time constraint, do you definitely recommend flying to those destinations? How easy is it to navigate those airports in Chiang Mai and the other smaller areas?

    Again, this guide is the bomb, thanks!

    • Comment by Marek

      Marek Reply March 27, 2017 at 11:33 am

      Thanks Eric. Yes, flying is a good idea if you don’t have that much time. Don’t worry, smaller airports like Chiang Mai, Phuket, Koh Samui, Krabi, etc. are very easy to deal with. They get loads of international visitors and they’re really no different from other airports you may have been. 🙂

  2. Comment by Laura

    Laura Reply March 22, 2017 at 2:58 pm

    Great summary! This seriously inspires my wanderlust and gives me the urge to return to Thailand! How fascinating is the Muay Thai kickboxing?! We went to one in Chiang Mai and they even had ‘blind’ fights with eye masks on!

    • Comment by Marek

      Marek Reply March 22, 2017 at 4:19 pm

      Hah that’s awesome! I definitely love the Muay Thai, and especially how worked up the crowds get. 🙂

  3. Comment by Joshua

    Joshua Reply December 8, 2016 at 3:55 am

    Have you ever been to Chumphon? Really enjoying how quiet and untouristy it is. Close to some islands, parks and beaches so there are things to do and see. We were unsure of the area, but are really glad we gave it a shot!

    • Comment by Marek

      Marek Reply December 8, 2016 at 2:01 pm

      I haven’t yet been, but good tip!

  4. Comment by Marcel

    Marcel Reply November 25, 2016 at 3:25 am

    Hey Marek, thanks for the info. Next year in April I will make my first solo trip to southeast Asia. After 3 weeks in Bali I want to travel about 10 days to Thailand or Vietnam. Which destination would you choose for that short time? Thanks

    • Comment by Marek

      Marek Reply November 25, 2016 at 11:43 am

      Hoi Marcel. Hmm, that’s like choosing between chocolate and ice cream, both are amazing in their own way 😉 I’d probably simply pick the country that sounds the most appealing to you based on reading travel guides, and then pick one part of that country to focus on (e.g. spend a day or two in Bangkok and then either the islands or the north in Thailand, or choose between southern or northern Vietnam).

      • Comment by Marcel

        Marcel Reply November 27, 2016 at 2:07 pm

        Hi Marek. I think I have to visit both countries once. As you wrote in your reviews Thailand will be probably the first one to visit for someone who has never been in Asia before. I will definitely buy the expert guide to get the most of my trip. Thanks for your advice man!

  5. Comment by Hayden

    Hayden Reply November 10, 2016 at 1:22 pm

    I like the new menu system you have at the top. A good improvement!

  6. Comment by Jay

    Jay Reply October 25, 2016 at 12:52 pm

    Wow Marek that’s really helpful guide for Thailand. I’m glad that you have spent your time to write this wonderful guide.

    However, I just want to add something. I went to many blogs about guide to Thailand. None of them talks about the festivals in Thailand. For me, some of the festivals itself can be the main reason you want to visit Thailand.
    Right? I mean sometimes people just went to Spain just for the La Tomatina.

    Anyways, I have written down some the festivals in my blog. I hope maybe this can be a factor when you plan to visit next time.

    http://tiewwithme.com/2016/10/17/thailand-festivals-dont-miss/

  7. Comment by Saurabh

    Saurabh Reply October 15, 2016 at 5:39 pm

    Hey Marek,

    Fabulous blog. I just booked my Thailand trip for 6-14 November. Unfortunately, I read about the king’s death recently. I believe the clubs/bars/markets will be shut now. I plan to chill, shop and a bit of partying. Some of my hotel bookings are non-refundable. What do you suggest I do? I’m a bit panicky. Thanks in advance.

    • Comment by Marek

      Marek Reply October 17, 2016 at 8:48 pm

      It’s hard to say without knowing more about your expectations for the trip, but personally I would still go. There’s some useful info from the Thailand Tourism Authority here. Some more info here. The mood may be more subdued but tourists are still welcome.

  8. Comment by Travel Iago

    Travel Iago Reply September 16, 2016 at 1:47 pm

    Hey Marek,
    We love your blog and wanted to share an app that food lovers might find helpful on their next trip to Thailand. It’s called Travel Iago (www.traveliago.com) and it’s kind of like Tinder for food. It is packed full of local dish options to swipe through, and you can even apply your personal preferences to ingredients and flavor choices. Anyway, check it out. I’m sure you will love it! http://www.traveliago.com

  9. Comment by Rich

    Rich Reply August 24, 2016 at 11:42 am

    Hi Marek
    Just was reviewing your blog. I think it’s usefyul and awesome. I just left you a note on your blogging “nofollow” page
    .
    Thought I would share with you and your readers my favorite island in Thailand- Koh Chang
    Visit the Stunning Paradise of Koh Chang, Thailand
    and I recommend elephant trekking on Koh Chang as well.

    Anyways, feel free to check out my blog and leave a link to yours as well. Keep up the great work!
    Rich recently posted…A Fact Free History of Pompeii + Modern Day TourMy Profile

  10. Comment by samy ibrahim

    samy ibrahim Reply July 29, 2016 at 1:54 am

    hey, me and a friend are planning on going to vietnam and cambodia in october and i was just wandering, how bad is weather in thailand in october for doing snorkelling elephant riding and other beach activities. just because we were hoping we could fit thailand in as well .
    thanks

    • Comment by Marek

      Marek Reply August 13, 2016 at 12:08 pm

      October is apparently a bit of a lucky draw with the weather. I was in Thailand in October and while there were a few rainy days, it was mostly very sunny and nice. This was in the north though and I hear the weather on the coasts can be pretty average in Oct. If you have enough time on your trip you can take your chances though. Read a book on a rainy day, then enjoy some beach time when things clear up. I spent the tail end of rainy season in the Philippines in this way, and given that I wasn’t on just a short holiday, I didn’t mind.

      BTW elephant riding is typically not recommended from an animal welfare point of view – might want to read something about this before deciding to do this activity.

  11. Comment by Julian Wright

    Julian Wright Reply July 12, 2016 at 11:30 am

    If you are traveling as an independent traveler, the North East of Thailand is the most authentic area. Much cheaper than other areas and truly beautiful. There are so many things to do in the area where we live around Nong Khai, including The Sculpture Park only 7 km away, The Historical park 60 km away where people lived 3500 years ago, The Mekong River, and Giant Cat Fish…

  12. Comment by Kat

    Kat Reply July 8, 2016 at 1:02 am

    Hey Marek,

    25 y/o female traveler planning to go to Thailand in about a month’s time from Brisbane, Australia. Aussie has been my first time out of the USA and I’m just a little bit nervous about transportation and getting to and from places effectively. I’m only going to be able to go for about a week…I was wondering if you have any links or guides about transportation in Thailand.

    I read someone’s comment previously about hostels. A few friends have told me that it’s best to just show up and walk around and find one that you like for a good price before you actually commit to staying in one. Opinion?

    Last question…how much money would you recommend for a week stay? I like to party but I’m not really planning on doing any of that because I’m going to be too busy making moves from destination to destination and don’t want to waste my time being hungover or anything. I really just want to see as many temples as I can and then obviously bake on the beach, and take a few souvenirs back for my family. I read one post that asked $550 but that one wasn’t answered either.
    Thanks so much!

    • Comment by Marek

      Marek Reply July 26, 2016 at 12:46 pm

      Yes, you can just show up and then ‘shop around’, but I think this technique is better used when travelling long term and not in a hurry. If you’re going for a week I’d advise to pre-book via a site like Hostelworld maybe a day or two in advance. You don’t want to waste time haggling or walking around town for ages looking for accommodation.

      Transporation is easily arranged ad hoc and most hostels can help you with this. There are also lots of little agencies around where you can buy bus tickets. For a long or important bus/train journey, you could consider booking online, e.g. http://www.busonlineticket.co.th/ For trains booking at least a day or two in advance is advised.

      Around $300 should be plenty for a week – though some travellers will spend less. Hugely dependent on your travel style though.

    • Comment by Marek

      Marek Reply May 26, 2016 at 11:26 am

      Great video!

  13. Comment by Charlie

    Charlie Reply April 28, 2016 at 9:41 pm

    Congrats for all the info you posted here! My friends and I are planning to go to Thai on August, so we were a bit scared mainly about the weather…

    For sure we’re gonna follow some of your advices, thank u so much!!

  14. Comment by erica

    erica Reply March 22, 2016 at 4:20 am

    Looking to travel out of the country for the first time and will be going solo. Im a 23 year old female and some family and friends have their opinions on me traveling solo. Was wondering if you had any thoughts on this? Do you see many young woman traveling solo? And do you feel its just as safe as it is for the men traveling to Thailand? Would love to konw what you think! Thanks for all the great tips on here!

    • Comment by Hilary

      Hilary Reply April 17, 2016 at 2:05 pm

      I’m a 23-year-old chica that’s planning on doing some solo traveling in Southeast Asia as well. Though I haven’t been to Thailand before, I have several female friends who have traveled there alone and felt quite safe. Traveling solo in general is amazing and very liberating — I’ve mostly just done it in China and Japan so far but am excited to venture out more. Don’t let the worry of your family and friends keep you from doing what you love. Good luck and have a blast! <3

  15. Comment by Dan

    Dan Reply February 8, 2016 at 3:55 am

    Come 2 days to teach English to novices at a temple, Monday and Tuesday, as a volunteer, in our city Nakhon Si Thammarat. You don’t need to be a native speaker of English but just be reasonably fluent and have a clear accent. We provide free breakfast, lunch and transportation. Like this you can experience real Thailand. Respond to this comment if you are interested.

    • Comment by Adrian

      Adrian Reply April 17, 2016 at 10:33 am

      Hey Dan!
      I am interested!! Can we connect? I will be in Chiang Mai soon and can go after that. Can you give me some details?

  16. Comment by Sasa

    Sasa Reply February 1, 2016 at 10:40 pm

    Hi Marek,

    Thanks for this good blog about Thailand. My girlfriend and I are planning to visit Thailand as our friends who already visited recommended us to go there, and it came on a short notice as she got unexpected vacation for few weeks, so we decided to give it a go and to travel this Sunday. As we don’t have much time to investigate the other countries in South East Asia, I wanted to ask, if possible, what country by your opinion is most worth to visit in that region, as we were looking for the cheapest and nicest ones, for example like Philippines, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand (for which we have close information from our friends). Is it maybe better to go to some of these countries, because of pricing, then to Thailand, as we’re looking for relaxation on nice beaches, good nightlife (for few nights to go out), to enjoy in good foods, and maybe do some cheap cloth and electronics shopping if possible (but this is not our main goal). We would appreciate very much if you could give us some advice where would be best to go in that region concerning prices and named above?

    Thank you Marek, or anybody else who could give us good advice here! Hopefully we’ll get your or somebody elses response and good advice.

    Thanks once again!
    Sasa & Sandra

  17. Comment by artwin

    artwin Reply January 10, 2016 at 3:57 pm

    I’m gonna visit Thailand by the end of 2016, and I’ve heard that their waterfall sceneries are beautiful, any tips on that. I’m very interested in aquatic nature, so cna anyone tell if it would be worthwhile organizing a trip around Thailand only to see waterfalls (i.e. are they that good)?

  18. Comment by Charli

    Charli Reply January 3, 2016 at 4:17 pm

    Thank you for such a wonderful guide! I’m just starting to think about a trip to SE Asia and this is full of incredibly useful information to come back to. Much appreciated!
    Charli recently posted…Tivoli Gardens at ChristmasMy Profile

  19. Comment by Reese

    Reese Reply December 3, 2015 at 1:05 am

    Hi I want to visit Thailand for 15 days. Can you suggest a good itinerary which includes: BKK, Chiang Mai, Pai, Chiang Rai and the Andaman Region? is it doable? flights from BKK to Krabi is okay.

  20. Comment by Deen severino

    Deen severino Reply November 29, 2015 at 7:21 am

    Thank you, thank you, and thank you for this! very helpful blog

  21. Comment by Sarah

    Sarah Reply November 25, 2015 at 1:51 pm

    Wow this is such a great comprehensive list. It definitely gives Fodor a run for their money (is that the saying?). And yes to the food part!! I always include eating at street carts as part of the tips I give my family and friends.
    Sarah recently posted…9 Practical Tips for ThailandMy Profile

  22. Comment by Shannan

    Shannan Reply November 17, 2015 at 12:29 am

    Hey! I’m going backpacking next summer, flying in and out of Bangkok with a total of 43 days in between. Is that enough time to, comfortably, enjoy Thailand, Myanmar, and Cambodia? We’re really interested in both the Buddhist/Hinduism/Historical sites, such as Angkor Wat, and then the beaches, waterfalls, and mountains as well. We need to start our journey and end our journey in Bangkok, so how do you recommend laying out our path?

    Thanks!!

    • Comment by Marek

      Marek Reply November 23, 2015 at 10:39 pm

      43 days should give you plenty of time to see those countries without rushing too much. Starting from Bangkok I’d probably hit up northern Thailand first (it’s the more cultural part of Thailand and a good place to start), then loop back down, overland it to Cambodia, and then come back to Bangkok. Maybe from there get a cheap flight with Airasia to and from Myanmar to save you some travel time. Then spend the last part of your trip on the Thai beaches in the south (a nice and lazy end to your trip).

      A route like this does have you circle back to Bangkok a few times, though it’s a very efficient travel hub and it’s not uncommon for travellers to pass through it a few times when travelling in Southeast Asia. Overlanding between Thailand and Myanmar can still be a bit complicated which is also part of why I’d suggest taking a flight there.

      Hope this helps!

  23. Comment by Kale

    Kale Reply October 25, 2015 at 10:07 am

    I can totally recommend Rainy’s Tourist and Taxi services. We’ve been in Phuket Thailand many times and only used Rainy’s travel services, she speaks very good english and is friendly woman. Also this year we will definitely be using her services, which are very much cheaper than tourist offices provide. It’s so good to find someone you can trust.

    Contact info: Rainy mobile: +66843073993 or +66887541237
    email: rainyphuket@yahoo.com

  24. Comment by thesatorisaga

    thesatorisaga Reply September 22, 2015 at 7:28 am

    Love this post, it has almost every tip that a first- timer would be looking for. I loved Pai.

  25. Comment by Colin Heinrich

    Colin Heinrich Reply July 22, 2015 at 7:32 pm

    Just noticed you linked to my Full Moon Party article… glad you liked it! This is an awesome guide you’ve got here.

  26. Comment by Nicolas Cure

    Nicolas Cure Reply April 13, 2015 at 10:19 pm

    Hi Marek, Im planning a 19 day trip to Thailand and I want to fully know the country… what places do you recommend? traveling with my wife so maybe not up for sex tourists

  27. Comment by Stephanie

    Stephanie Reply April 4, 2015 at 4:13 am

    How hard it is to get around and get food and accomodation if you can’t speak Thai? Especially in the less touristy places?

    • Comment by Marek Indietraveller

      Marek Indietraveller Reply April 4, 2015 at 11:41 am

      In my experience it’s generally not an issue. Many people understand some basic English words, especially ones used for ordering food or finding accommodation. If you are in a really non-touristy or rural place, you might experience a little bit more difficulty. Being patient / friendly, miming things or using a little phrase book you can pretty much always deal with the essentials in some way or another.

  28. Comment by Anuj

    Anuj Reply February 6, 2015 at 4:36 am

    Hi Marek, Great tips and information. I am a first time solo traveller planning a month travel to Thailand in about two weeks from today. Would a month be too much or what ? Any tips on how should I be planning my tour.

    • Comment by Marek Indietraveller

      Marek Indietraveller Reply February 6, 2015 at 12:29 pm

      It’s never too much! A month is actually a great amount of time to spend in Thailand. It’s good to get a rough idea/plan ahead of time, but with a month you have a lot of room to improvise as well. Ask people you meet what they liked most in Thailand and consider going to places by recommendation.

      • Comment by Anuj

        Anuj Reply February 8, 2015 at 1:51 am

        Thanks Marek. Getting into hostel accommodation in Chiang Mai, Kho Tao, can they be booked in a day advance or I should be looking into further ahead of time. Also how are the train bookings ?

        • Comment by Marek Indietraveller

          Marek Indietraveller Reply February 19, 2015 at 2:13 pm

          Unless there is some special holiday then booking a day in advance is always fine in my experience. Same with trains. Ask for the timetable at your place of accommodation, they’ll probably just tell you to go to the station to buy a ticket, then you wait a bit and off you go.

  29. Comment by Huong Trang

    Huong Trang Reply December 26, 2014 at 9:16 am

    Hi Marek. I plan to go thailand by the end of january and early february 2015. I will flight from Singapore straight to Phuket. How many days should I spend on Phuket -> Koh Phi Phi -> Krabi? cos I don’t wanna miss the Full moon party on the 3rd of feb on Koh Pha Ngan. Thank you!~

  30. Comment by Nishant

    Nishant Reply December 5, 2014 at 11:02 am

    Hi Marek. Your posts are truly informative. I’m planning to travel to Thailand for 6 nights / 7 days in dec 2014. I’ll be landing and departing from Bangkok. Which island would you suggest for a peaceful getaway? I would avoid ‘sex tourism centric’ places as I’m traveling with Better Half. We were thinking either Krabi or Koh Samui. Please suggest itinerary. Thanks.

    • Comment by Marek Indietraveller

      Marek Indietraveller Reply December 5, 2014 at 11:14 am

      Depends on what you’re after! Koh Samui is a very glossy and upmarket island and suitable for more of a luxury holiday. If you want something more backpackery then Krabi is worth looking into. The nearby island Koh Lanta is peaceful but still has a lot to do.

      • Comment by Nishant

        Nishant Reply December 5, 2014 at 12:36 pm

        Thanks. In your post I read about rice fields and bamboo huts. Are these basic ones or luxury accommodation?

        We would prefer being away from the hustle bustle so I guess John Samuel is kinds out? What about Phi Phi or Paint?

        Finally, should I be taking flights from BKK any of the locations or there are ferries or trains or taxis as well?

        • Comment by Marek Indietraveller

          Marek Indietraveller Reply December 5, 2014 at 12:52 pm

          I’m guessing your phone autocorrect has gone to town on your message 🙂 Koh Phi Phi is very much a party island, so definitely a lot of hustle and bustle there. Trains in Thailand are pretty good so if you want to take the scenic route you can do that from BKK down to Krabi region. Another easy option is to fly: AirAsia sells combination tickets that fly out from BKK and get you a connecting ferry too.

  31. Comment by Zandra Kilde

    Zandra Kilde Reply November 30, 2014 at 11:09 pm

    Hi, I have read all of your post about southeast asia, and they are really good.
    I was wondering where you have made your orientation map? I’m trying to get something similar for Sydney, but I cannot find a nice clean map anywhere. Hope you can help me.
    Huge fan of yo blog.

    B/R Zandra

    • Comment by Marek Indietraveller

      Marek Indietraveller Reply November 30, 2014 at 11:40 pm

      Finding clean maps can definitely be difficult. I create the maps myself using a vector image editor and map outlines provided by FreeVectorMaps.com. Hope that helps!

  32. Comment by fdfdd

    fdfdd Reply November 28, 2014 at 10:03 am

    Hi,

    I will go to Thailand in Dec 2014. Can anybody help me to get a idea of a short trip of 4 days how much I shall bring? S$500 will be enough? I don’t want to do any shopping, want to hop to floating market, Pattaya of course and picturesque islands..

  33. Comment by Wu

    Wu Reply November 26, 2014 at 4:48 pm

    I love to visit provinces in the northeast ( Isarn ) like Khonkaen and Sisaket. People are nice and friendly. Interesting culture 🙂

  34. Comment by Pat

    Pat Reply November 20, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    Hey man, thanks for the information. I plan on going to Thailand for the second half of February. This will be my first backpacking trip so I’ll take all the help I can get. I want to try and do this itinerary: Bangkok -> Chiang Mai -> Pai -> Koh Tao. How many days do you think I need (excluding days for international travel)?

    • Comment by Marek Indietraveller

      Marek Indietraveller Reply November 22, 2014 at 1:37 pm

      Hi Pat. It’s always difficult to answer that question as it depends on how much you want to see! For Bangkok > Chiang Mai > Pai I would probably say a week at bare minimum if you want to spend at least several days in each place, though there’s enough to do in all of these places that you could spend two weeks or more. Transportation is another factor. Going from Bangkok to Chiang Mai will take about 15 hours by train – taking a sleeper train is a good idea if you want to cover this part of your itinerary overland without eating too much into your travel time. Backtracking down to Koh Tao is going to take you the most time, so if you don’t have that much time it might be worth checking if there’s a flight from Chiang Mai down to the islands (or first to Bangkok and then to Koh Samui, from where you can take a boat to Koh Tao). Good luck on your trip!

    • Comment by Sarah

      Sarah Reply December 4, 2015 at 4:49 pm

      I loved Chiang Mai and Pai! Pai was my favorite. I would spend the least amount of time in Bangkok but I’m spoiled with NYC and wasn’t so enthralled with Bangkok… cept for the food carts. Those are awesome.
      Sarah recently posted…9 Practical Tips for ThailandMy Profile

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